Isabel Hardman Isabel Hardman

The fight for the soul of the Labour party

Fight! Two senior Labour MPs locked horns yesterday over the Scottish leadership contest. Ivan Lewis and Tom Watson scrapped after the latter wrote a piece endorsing left-leaning Neil Findlay for the leadership. Lewis tweeted shortly after Watson promoted his piece that ‘it’s essential that Scots decide best person to be leader of Scottish Labour. Others interfering not in the interests of the Labour Party’. Watson took this as it was clearly meant and dived straight in with a retort:

‘Presumably you’d rather they quietly elect your candidate whilst we all watch. Plus ça change.’

This is ostensibly a debate between the two men about rival candidates in the contest for Scottish Labour leader. But it’s also about a great deal more. Lewis then accused Watson manipulating elections, saying:

‘I want party to choose leaders in an open democratic way. Your problem is this is one leadership election you can’t manipulate.’

Watson then asked him to specify which elections Lewis thought he had manipulated, which he didn’t, presumably because everyone else watching with popcorn knew he meant Watson’s part in Tony Blair’s demise as Labour leader. So this is partly about who did what in the past. Lewis has a particularly personal grievance from the years that followed as Damian McBride revealed in his book that the spin doctor exacted revenge on Lewis for speaking out of line by putting about allegations about his behaviour towards a female aide.

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